Hokies Football: How Virginia Tech Can Stop The Triple Option

Fellow Hokie fans, its Techmo bowl week, which means it’s time to face one of the more vexing offenses known to man. The triple option is an offense that is maddening for teams to defend as it requires not only a great scheme, but extreme discipline to stop. For the years since Paul Johnson brought this offense to Georgia Tech, Bud Foster has had the most consistent success against this potent rushing attack.

The question is how do you stop this attack? What needs to be a point of emphasis for the Hokie defenders? I hope to give you the fans a bit of a look behind the curtain on what the Hokie defenders will have to contend with this Saturday.

First thing is first, let’s look at the key positions on the Georgia Tech offense. First the backfield led by the quarterback, Justin Thomas, who will be the architect of the attack. Thomas has the most important job on the offense as he is the person who is responsible for reading the defense in order to make the right call in who he hands the ball off to, or if he decides to keep it himself.

Thomas is the second leading rusher on the team both in yards and in attempts. Thomas is a senior and has had plenty of practice running this complex offense. However, this year an added wrinkle has been added to the offense as Thomas is now a passing threat out of this offense as well.

The second important cogs in this offense are the backs. The traditional set has three backs behind the quarterback. Two “A” backs or half backs and a “B” back or a fullback. The “A” backs are somewhat interchangeable as Paul Johnson will attempt to keep his players legs fresh. The “B” has been the star this year.

Dedrick Mills is the leading rusher for the Yellow Jackets and has gotten into the end zone 10 times this year but was suspended this week for two games so scouting will be critical for the Hokies against whoever Georgia Tech may use in his place. The final piece of the offense firepower is the receivers. Most of the time the wideouts are tasked with blocking on the option plays. However, they are now more ofA pass catching threat than ever before.

Now this next part is where I am either going to lose half of you, or really impress you with my football knowledge. As I see it this Georgia Tech rushing attack is based on 6 simple plays. The exoticness of this offense is in the variations that occur off these simple plays. The base plays are the dive, the veer, the counter, the option, the rocket toss, and the QB follow. Now all the plays are designed to get middle chunks of yards and keep the offense on schedule. Most of these plays offer multiple options for a ball carrier and fakes galore. Only the QB follow has one designed ball carrier.

All the plays however, have the opportunity to go for big yardage and a score when run to perfection. Face it fans, this offense isn’t flashy in the sense that there are exciting, heart-stopping plays every other down, but it is designed to wear a defense down and grind out yards. Get accustomed to the defense being on the field for 4th downs, effectively neutralizing the vaunted Virginia Tech special teams.

On each of these plays, it is important for Justin Thomas to read and react to the defensive players to get the most out of each play. The defense is also having to read Thomas as well. So how does the Hokies stop this offense? The answer is not as complex as you might think.

The main thing to do on defense is to be disciplined in your role during the game. This means gap assignments and zone assignments are going to be paramount for the talented Hokie defense. I guarantee Bud Foster has been working with his defense to understand what every position has to do on every play. Doing your job and rallying to the ball once the tackle is being made is also extremely important. One misstep by a defensive end or a linebacker can start a chain reaction which could result in a big play.

Now who on the Hokie defense will have the most important job should be the next question running through your mind. That answer is easy, but two-fold. First the defensive ends i.e. Ken Ekanem and company will dictate if the play is going to be forced back inside or bounced out to the boundary. Ekanem causes this decision to either be crashing to the inside, forcing the play outside, or coming up the field to hold contain and force the rusher back inside towards the teeth of the defensive line.

The next important players are the linebacking corps, most notably Tremaine Edmunds and Mook Reynolds. However, more than likely for the first half it will be Anothy Shegog with the suspension of Terrell Edmunds. Foster will more than likely move Mook to a Safety position. Justin Fuente did say the best 11 guys would be on the field. The jobs of the linebackers is to stay disciplined and start the tackling process, wrap up, and hold on till the calvary arrives. On a play-by-play situationm the linebackers are responsible for not only areas and gaps, but players as well.

For instance on the counter option plays, the Georgia Tech QB will take the snap and turn to the short side of the field. The “A” back on the boundary side will come around to become the pitch man. The other “A” back becomes a lead blocker. However, the “B” back is the wild card on this play. The first action is a fake to the “B” back dive, or not a fake depending on how the QB reads the defensive end. Once again, gap integrity will be paramount for the defensive line. However, for this exercise let’s assume the QB keeps the ball.

The linebacker must first see if the defensive end comes up the field to force the ball back inside, or takes the QB as his assignment. Once he sees the decision by his teammate, he then, based on what he sees, decides what action must be taken. Let’s assume the defensive end crashes in forcing the play outside.

Edmunds, in this case, must either take the QB or the pitch man. There is no time for second guessing, make a choice, stick with it, and trust your teammates to make the play behind you. If Edmunds takes the pitch away the QB will turn up the field, back into the waiting arms of either the middle linebacker or defensive end. Say Edmunds decides to take the QB, the outside corners must shed their blocks, get to the pitch man, and wrap up.

On any play the Yellow Jackets attempt, misdirection is going to be a part of it. There is almost always a fake to the “B” back on every play, before the action of the play begins. It is going to be the job of Andrew Motuapuaka to manage these fakes and misdirection. As the middle linebacker, look for Motuapuaka to be involved in most of the Hokie stops.

If anything he is who the front line guys are going to depend on to make the tackle behind them. Honestly, a 15-plus tackle day would not surprise me at all. I look for Foster to use Motuapuaka as a spy on Justin Thomas. The Hokies cannot afford for Thomas to have a big game. Motuapuaka is a sure tackler which is going to be key as the Hokies need keep all the offensive plays to a small-yardage variety.

How can one simple play have so many working parts on either side of the ball? Who says football isn’t a thinking man’s game. The I.Q. of the Hokie defense will definitely be tested. Also, the stamina of the defense as well. Here is where the injury to Greg Stroman, and the suspension of Terrell Edmunds will come into play.

Mook Reynolds is a player I would pay close attention to. Reynolds is, because of limited depth in the secondary, going to be asked to play two separate positons on Saturday. That’s a lot to ask of any player especially a young player. However, Mook will have the luxury of seeing this offense once before. Even with that experience, he will need to be smart and disciplined as I have been preaching this whole time.

On Saturday, the Hokies are going to be tested, a test which I believe they will pass. When you are watching the game, you hopefully now understand the concepts behind the offense and understanding the defense strategy for trying to stop it will be a little easier. After all fans, isn’t watching a game where you know more about what is going on just that much more fun. As always fans LETS GO HOKIES!!!!

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